Judaism and Justice

Why is it that Jews are so involved in causes dedicated to justice, equality, human rights and peace? Are these trends influenced by religion, history, sociology or something else?

Judaism and Justice explores the relationship between Judaism, social justice and the Jewish identity of American Jews. The book traces how the idea of “justice”, as developed in the sacred texts of Judaism, conditions Jewish attitudes and behavior. In a fascinating portrayal of some of the major issues facing the Jewish community in the last 50 years, Schwarz explores a community torn between its instincts for self-preservation and its desire to serve as an ethical “light to the nations”. The book’s overview of new and emerging Jewish social justice organizations yields a bold thesis that helps to explain much of the contemporary Jewish condition.

Rabbi Schwarz’s first book, Finding a Spiritual Home, was not only widely read and quoted, but has been used by hundreds of synagogues and rabbis across the country. In it, he offered a new paradigm to help reclaim the American synagogue for a younger generation of American Jews. Judaism and Justice uses a similar blend of history and sociology to offer a new vision for a Jewish community built around a commitment to social justice. The book will speak to the tens of thousands of Jews with deep commitments to justice, peace and equality, connecting that behavior and consciousness to the history, values and wisdom of the Jewish heritage. A directory of Jewish social justice and community service organizations will provide readers with a starting point for meaningful engagement.

Judaism and Justice provides a new way to understand Jewish identity. Purchase Judaism and Justice.

Praise for Judaism and Justice

From Booklist

Rabbi Schwarz affirms in his introduction that his book explores the relationship between Judaism, social justice, and the identity of American Jews. He chronicles the organized Jewish community and its public-affairs agenda from the end of World War II in 1945 through the early years of the twenty-first century. The term “organized Jewish community,” he explains, refers to the institutions under the umbrella of the national Jewish federation system that engage in fundraising from the community and allocate money to support local and overseas Jewish needs, as well as projects in Israel. Schwarz divides the book into four parts. Part 1 probes the question, what is the purpose of Judaism? Part 2 offers an interpretation of the five books of Moses and seven rabbinic principles. Part 3 looks at how the Jewish community places itself in the American public arena, and part 4 chronicles new developments in the American Jewish community “that point in the direction of a Jewish renaissance.” An engrossing commentary deserving to be read.
– George Cohen
Copyright American Library Association

Judaism and Justice is a powerful answer to the question of whether Judaism can make life worth living. The book is rich with classical Jewish sources as well as history and sociology. There is much to learn about Jewish life, especially the story of Jews in the United States. Yet, most compellingly, Sid Schwarz is a story teller out to inspire us to live a meaningful life by rolling up our sleeves and grasping a world that needs healing.”
-Dr. David Elcott
Professor, New York University; author, A Sacred Journey: The Jewish Quest for a Perfect World.

“Sid Schwarz has written an important book at a moment in which the future character of American Jewish life is being determined. With eloquence and wisdom he demonstrates that the pursuit of justice is not simply one more strategy to engage Jews but the very heart and soul of Judaism. In an age when Jewish life is turning inward Schwarz’s insights will inspire readers to remember the dream of why we are here…to repair our world. And that changes everything.”
-Rabbi Irwin Kula
President, CLAL-National Center for Learning and Leadership

Judaism and Justice is a “must read” for anyone concerned about Judaism, justice, or both. Schwarz, who has decades of experience in linking Judaism and justice in the lives of young Jews coming from all kinds of Jewish backgrounds, here describes how and why Judaism and justice have and should be linked. This is a reasoned but passionate call to tie our concerns for the Jewish future with our work for a better future for all. With his advice, we just might succeed in doing that.”
-Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy, University of Judaism; author, To Do the Right and the Good and The Way Into Tikkun Olam (Fixing the World).

Judaism and Justice provides a long awaited prophetic vision for the nexus between Jewish tradition and culture and a commitment to social justice. In this rich and nuanced book, Sidney Schwarz takes the reader on an exciting journey, combining an informative history of Jewish activism in the worlds of political and social action, and a persuasive reading of Jewish texts, arguing for their relevance as a source of guidance for Jews and for the world. This exciting and path-breaking book is a “must read” for those concerned with the Jewish condition and with a world in need of transformation and repair.”
-David Gordis, Ph.D.
Professor of Rabbinics and Former President, Hebrew College

“Sid Schwarz has written a thoughtful, sophisticated, and ultimately deeply spiritual account of the connection between Jews, Judaism and social justice. Judaism and Justice is a work that every Jewish communal leader, rabbi, educator, and individual seeking to understand what Judaism has to say in and to the contemporary world must read. As he did in his masterful first book, Finding a Spiritual Home, Rabbi Schwarz opens a window into some of the most creative activity taking place in American Jewish life today and shows how the Jewish community can again be a source of moral inspiration, fellowship, and profound meaning for contemporary Jews. In Judaism and Justice Rabbi Schwarz brings to bear his own decades of experience as both a leader in the Jewish community relations field and a Jewish educator par excellence to demonstrate why a passion for social justice is critical to ensure the very “continuity” that the community so ardently seeks.”
-Dr. Jonathan Woocher, Chief Ideas Officer, Jewish Education Service of North America; author, Sacred Survival: The Civil Religion of American Jews

“Rabbi Sidney Schwarz offers a comprehensive and dynamic compilation of Jewish texts and teachings on Judaism’s passion for social justice. Judaism and Justice is a work that touches and teaches, even as it constantly reminds us that ethics is at the heart of Judaism’s concerns.”
-Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of A Code of Jewish Ethics, and Jewish Literacy.

“Rabbi Sid Schwarz’s passion and love for his people and all of humankind comes through powerfully in this volume. It speaks the message that the test of community is how it embraces the most vulnerable. In Judaism and Justice Rabbi Schwarz shows the way with mind, soul and heart. Bravo!”
-Rabbi Avi Weiss, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale; Founder and Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School

“Sid Schwarz has found a powerful way to teach the history and meaning of the American Jewish commitment to tikkun olam. By framing the commitment in his innovative concept of the tension between Jewish Sinai and Exodus impulses, Schwarz has given the Jewish community a way to understand its social justice commitment and to measure it. With eloquence and without an iota of artifice or hyperbole Sid Schwarz’s Judaism and Justice will inspire Jews to make the world a better place in the years and decades to come.”
-Rabbi Steven Gutow, Executive Vice-President, Jewish Council for Public Affairs

“In Judaism and Justice, Rabbi Sid Schwarz presents a comprehensive and sophisticated analysis of the role that social justice plays in defining the commitments of North American Jews. Drawing on the theological ideals of particularity and covenant embedded in the classical Jewish concepts of Exodus and Sinai, Schwarz illuminates the modern Jewish condition and argues how a passion for justice is necessary for a widespread renaissance of Judaism among contemporary American Jews. Judaism and Justice is judicious and intelligent throughout, and constitutes a valuable contribution to modern Jewish thought and history.”
-Dr. David Ellenson, President, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion; author, After Emancipation: Jewish Religious Responses to Modernity

“Sidney Schwarz – rabbi, activist, and social justice educator – draws upon all these roles to provide the rationale and context for Jewish social justice engagement in 21st century America. Judaism and Justice makes the case for a socially conscious and Jewishly informed involvement on the part of all those who care about repairing the world.”
-Dr. Steven M. Cohen
Research Professor of Jewish Social Policy,
Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion

“Rabbi Sid Schwarz’ life and career embody a unique mix of religious vision and an ability to implement that vision in the real world. This book expresses that dynamic interaction. Not only does Judaism and Justice provide an original analysis of the contemporary American Jewish condition, but, even more importantly, it provides an exciting prescription for a Judaism that combines a commitment to justice and righteousness with kedusha ‘holy apartness’.”
-Rabbi Irving Greenberg
Past President, Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation; author, The Jewish Way: Living the Holidays

Judaism and Justice provides a spectacular analysis of the lived tension between Jewish tribal and covenantal consciousness. It argues brilliantly for the importance of investing more energy and resources in Jewish social justice not only because it is a critical part of our heritage, but also because it has the ability of attracting the next generation of Jews to Judaism.”
-Ruth Messinger, President, American Jewish World Service

“With his important new book, Judaism and Justice, Sid Schwarz offers a bold vision for a Jewish community centered around a commitment to social justice. His compelling message will particularly resonate with today’s young Jews who are seeking new definitions of Jewish identity and meaning that are both uniquely Jewish and universally human. This eloquent and insightful work is a significant contribution for anyone who cares about the future of the Jewish people and our imperative to repair our broken world.”
-Lynn Schusterman, President, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation

“One of the most accessible books written on Judaism and social justice, Schwarz’s scholarship and analysis will make Judaism and Justice a staple of college courses on the American Jewish community. And for the tens of thousands of Jews who are at the forefront of movements for progressive social change but not engaged with Jewish life, this book provides the kind of compelling language and story that can lead to a closer connection.”
-Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Judaism and Justice offers a valuable framework for understanding the internal tension so many Jews deal with – survival vs. social justice. The book makes clear that this is not an either/or proposition but an “and” imperative. The Jewish community cannot afford to ignore its survival needs nor can the community justify its existence without a deep commitment to social justice. Sid Schwarz’s well researched, compelling and insightful book has an important message for our generation.”
-Edith Everett, philanthropist and community activist

“Sid Schwarz’s book is long overdue. By providing a social justice interpretation of the classical texts, an analysis of the organized Jewish community’s views on public policy, and an exploration of the emergent Jewish social justice movement, Schwarz covers the depth and breadth of the Jewish social justice story. From his decades of experience as a social change leader in the Jewish community, Schwarz has a profound understanding of the ties that bind Jews to this vital work. Judaism and Justice is a must read for anyone seeking to understand this phenomenon and what Jews might contribute to social change in the years to come.”
-Simon Greer, President & CEO, Jewish Funds for Justice

Judaism and Justice is a thoughtful, important and timely book. Not only does it help to describe and explain today’s exciting revival of social justice activism among Jews, it is quite likely going to accelerate that phenomenon. Sid Schwarz helps to re-define Judaism’s moral center in a way that is both clear and compelling.”
-Rabbi Rachel Cowan, executive director, Institute for Jewish Spirituality

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